How Trey Songz Bucked the R&B Slump With 'Trigga'

Fresh off back-to-back No. 1 albums, Songz spills the secrets to his success

Trey Songz has every reason to be smiling. It's been a good month for the 29-year-old R&B star (real name Tremaine Neverson). He scored his second consecutive No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with his sixth album, "Trigga," which also helped him top Billboard's first Artist 100 chart, unveiled July 10. His single "Na Na" peaked at No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 on July 19 - his 19th hit on the chart during his career. Here, one of R&B's hardest-working singer-songwriter-sex symbols reveals how he did it, from shirking the EDM trend to reconciling with August Alsina.

 

R&B has been struggling commercially. Why is "Trigga" doing so well?

Yeah, it's difficult these days, but I think "Trigga" is actually my best album. It's a cohesive body of work, all inside of one concept. But I also attribute it to having a loyal fan base. What we were able to create with "Trigga" is a sense of belonging. Over the last several years, R&B singers have been changing it up, doing different things like EDM. I kind of stuck it out for the long haul, especially with [2012's] "Chapter V," when dance was really big. It's so easy to buy into this single or that single versus buying into an artist's whole experience. I think labels and artists are more concerned with that immediate grab versus engaging the audience for a whole span of music.

What was your game plan in terms of engaging fans consistently?

We started to build a black-and-white concept. I erased all my Instagram pics before I dropped "Na Na." Everything new was black and white. It's about giving fans a continuous experience versus saying, "This single is for this radio station, this single is for that radio station." Because as an artist you've got to think, buying music is probably dead last at the end of someone's list when you have children to take care of, you have school, work, personal issues, and then you have to go get music - which you can get for free if you want to.

The videos are a continuous experience, too. They could be edited into a single movie. Was that intentional?

Yes. That was to captivate fans more. People [have] 15-second spans on Insta­gram and six seconds on Vine. So we calculated that a fan would probably watch a YouTube video for an average of two minutes. Then it was about figuring out how to tap into their minds and get them to want more. We hit them first with the song, then there would be a [preview], then the actual video. It was different steps of engagement. All were black-and-white-themed, just like the album. Those things subconsciously make fans become more engulfed in the experience.

When can fans expect your next al­bum, "Tremaine"?

It isn't far behind. I've recorded 60 songs.

One of the highlights at this year's BET Awards was seeing Chris Brown, you and August Alsina, who criticized you in the press earlier this year, perform together. How did you feel at that moment?

It was very special, not only for me as an artist but as a young man. I was thinking about the young men out there, thinking about what that moment meant to our culture to see three young men, doing their thing in separate ways, coming together to make a moment in history. You don't see a lot of people joining forces if they're not in the same clique. It was something bigger than we could ever imagine it to be.

You're coming on 10 years in the game. What's behind your staying power?

Hard work. People don't realize how hard this job actually is, or how fleeting success can be. I've had to kind of reinvent myself a couple of times. I love being No. 1, but when you know you've made a body of work that truly resonates with people - a soundtrack for people's lives - that's the ultimate success. And we accomplished that with "Trigga."


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